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Posts Tagged ‘eternal life’

A long time ago, the paths of two women crossed.  People who serve together in Lutherans For Life can easily become friends for life.  Beth and I don’t get to talk very often, but our conversations always pick up right where they left off.   I wish she lived closer.  In my imagination, I see us lingering over coffee or a latte as we discuss what’s happening in our world in light of God’s Word.  Right now, I would like to live closer to Beth so that I could be of encouragement to her.  To sit in silence beside her.   To walk with her through the shadow of death.

It is not Beth that is dying.  It is her husband, Cal.  His long, courageous battle with cancer may soon be over.  Beth has been faithful to include family and friends on this journey.  She writes of Cal’s wit and wisdom.   She writes with appreciation for shared faith.   She writes only as a daughter of God in Christ can write: with peace.  This is because Beth and Cal know that he is leaving – but only for a little while — to go ahead to their heavenly home.   The Spirit within Beth is lifting prayers to God when she cannot.

I think Beth, and those around her, are finding many teachable moments in the timing of Cal’s journey.

Christmas, even for Christians, can be a time of chaos and confusion.  We are easily distracted away from the birth of our Lord Jesus by preparations.  Gifts.  Food.  Family coming.  Programs and festivities.  I sense that Beth knows that she is distracted from both the birth of Christ and precious moments with her beloved Cal by preparations.  Decisions.  Legal matters.  Finances.  In-home hospital beds and oxygen tanks.  Hospice and palliative care.  Even so, for Beth and her family, there is a difference.  Beth writes, “We don’t fear death for Cal, nor does he fear his own death.  He has the hope and joy of seeing God face to face.  How awesome is that?” 

Christmas, even for Christians, can make us feel obligated to add Jesus.  “I have this to do.  And this.  I’m running out of time!  Oh, of course there’s Jesus, certainly the reason for the season.”  We create for ourselves such high expectations.  We want the perfect gift.  The perfectly orchestrated event.  A perfect meal.  Then, as life in this world typically goes, we are disappointed.  But, Beth is not obligated to add Jesus.  She is fully depending on Him to get her through perhaps the most difficult time of her life.  She has not created for herself high expectations.  Instead, she trusts God’s will and promise.  It is the promise of hope and eternal life that came to her and all people on the Holiest of Nights.  Beth knows that she will not be disappointed by the Creator of her life and the Author of her story.  Every word that Beth writes seems to rise up not from a well that is running dry, but from a well that is always replenished just when she needs it.

Many dream of a world without suffering.  A pain-free world.  A world where no one goes hungry.  Gets sick.  Falls into depression.   Faces difficulty.  That’s how “enlightened” and “modern” people like to think.  “Man is capable,” the believer in self claims, “of rising to a higher plain… removing suffering… defeating death and, in fact, creating life.”  This is, in its most honest form, inflated ego.  Arrogance.  Idolatry.  Beth harbors no such arrogance.  She and Cal understand that we all live in a fallen world.  They know that the very death they face is a consequence of The Fall.  Sin.  Disobedience and rebellion against the God who calls Himself “I Am.”

So, for Cal and Beth – and for me and my house – there is a strange joy in Christmas.  It is the joy of realizing who we are as fallen, desperate creatures.  Of realizing that, yes, human suffering in the midst of a fallen, sinful, messed up world is reality.  For this reason, we sing:

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear . . .

There is a curse in human suffering.  But, Jesus Christ is God come to earth to remove the sting.  Loosen the hold of death.  Take on Himself what we really deserve.  We sing “joy to the world” at Christmas because Christ is the only hope for a suffering world.  Failed expectations.  Hurting people.  Christ is Light in the darkness. 

My friend Beth knows this.  She clings to this Truth.  I think, based on Beth’s writing, that she and Cal find a special joy in the timing of their suffering.  For it is at Christmas that joy came to them.  The glory of Immanuel – “God with us” – is real to them.  His kingdom is open to them.

If I could, I would snap my fingers and remove Cal’s pain.  Beth’s sorrow.  The sadness of separation.  But, such wishful thinking does nothing for my friend.  Instead, I entrust Beth and her family to the Living Word for our lives… to Jesus Christ, Lord of Life.  Even though I am not sitting with her, I think I may hear Beth singing:

O come, Thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, Free them from Satan’s tyranny
That trust Thy mighty pow’r to save, And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high, And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

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